Author Topic: Should we try to eliminate religion?  (Read 14256 times)

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Offline kcrady

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Should we try to eliminate religion?
« on: November 27, 2011, 07:17:23 AM »
I wanted to post this as a response to the "Religious debate is pointless, the best cure is prevention" thread, but I was not quick enough.  I would like to politely ask all respondents to address the substantive issues and refrain from resuming the "slapping contest" that got that thread locked.

Religious debate is pointless:

Count me among the roll call of those who were cured of the Christian god-virus by means of atheist argumentation.  Debate does work, at least on a certain subset of believers.  However, there is a wide spectrum between "Pointless" and "Maximally Effective."  Debate works, just not very well--otherwise we would have won a long time ago.



Religious people are "insane" and "should be in an asylum:"

The problem we face here is that our language is fuzzy when it comes to these issues.  See also, "Religious people are delusional."  The distinction to be made here is between the clinical sort of "insanity" that refers to cognitive impairment caused by physical malfunctions in the brain that the victim can't fix by applying techniques of critical thinking (e.g., schizophrenia, clinical depression, eating disorders), and voluntarily-adopted cognitive impairment derived from sloppy thinking (e.g., religion, conspiracy theories, superstitions, over-active agency detection, cryptozoology, homeopathy, general anti-science biases, etc.).  The former is the sort of "insanity" that requires psychological and medical treatment, and should be addressed with compassion, rather than mockery.  The latter is the sort for which mockery may be appropriate, but medical approaches (drugs, forced commitment to an asylum, etc.) are not appropriate, at least not if we want to live in a free society. 

There are numerous problems with conflating the two, not the least of which is the perpetuation of a stigma on (genuine, clinical) mental illness.  It is "OK" in our society to have diabetes or cancer, but if you have a mental illness like schizophrenia or clinical depression, then you're "nuts" or "crazy," and the stigma associated with that can be a disincentive for afflicted people to seek the medical treatment they need.  While I think the kind of crappy "thinking" processes we associate with someone like Michelle Bachman or a dogmatic faith-head like this forum's own Bible Student deserves to be marginalized, especially when aspiring to political power or otherwise attempting to guide the course of society, a clear conceptual line has to be drawn between that and mental illness.  The former is a voluntarily adopted impairment that can be cured by adopting proper epistemic hygiene practices (and thus social pressure should be applied in that direction); the latter is not voluntarily adopted, requires professional treatment, and should not be stigmatized or conflated with voluntary crappy thinking. 

Religion is harmful/religious people are harmful:

I think that religion is harmful to the extent that it impedes the practice of rationality in thinking and in life.  Most religions attempt to rope off certain ideas, doctrines, organizations, leaders, etc. into a Reality-Free Zone.  When it comes to these special ideas, all of the mental vigilance/epistemic hygiene techniques we would normally apply to, say, used car salesmen or ads for diet pills, are supposed to be switched off in favor of "faith" "the heart" "higher knowledge" or some other form of "just knowing."  This causes harm in several ways.

1) Rejection of reality: The purpose of the Methods of Rationality is to orient human cognition and action to reality as much as possible.  That is, to conform our mental models of reality to reality itself, and orient our actions toward maximum efficacy.  Creating a Reality-Free Zone in our heads sabotages this process, especially when individual or social decisions are made on the basis of ideas that are "above" criticism, reality-testing, or re-evaluation.  Since reality always bats last, and it is indifferent to whatever levels of wannabelieve humans may wish to apply to the contents of their mental Reality-Free Zones, those "sacred" beliefs and decisions represent a kind of Russian roulette where the bullets are unpleasant consequences that can occur at any time.

2) Failure of quarantine: Most people with Reality-Free Zones in their heads are more or less able to function normally, most of the time.  They may claim a belief that the personal Creator of the Cosmos listens to their entreaties and alters the generalized principles of physics on their behalf (sometimes), but when it comes to modeling the anticipated behavior of reality and acting accordingly, they live in the same godless Universe we do.  If they need money, they seek employment rather than trying to catch a fish, expecting a gold coin to fall out of its mouth.  If their child is sick, they take them to a hospital, rather than to the elders of the church (James 5:14-15).  The problem here is that maintaining the quarantine is incredibly difficult, especially since the believer cannot openly acknowledge that they're doing it.  To do so would be to admit that their cherished beliefs are incompatible with reality, and they know it. 

Just as a lie can only be defended by a bodyguard of other lies (which must themselves be defended, and so on), a false belief must be defended by other false beliefs and deliberate impairment of accurate thinking.  If a person wants to place "The Earth was created ~10,000 years ago" into their Reality-Free Zone, they have to deny scientific cosmology and evolution.  Which means they have to deny all the evidence for scientific cosmology and evolution.  Which is pretty much everything to be found in any science textbook or museum.  Denying the evidence requires denying the method used to collect, analyze, and draw conclusions from that evidence.  So now they've rejected everything humans have ever discovered about how reality works, and the only demonstrably workable method of discovering how reality works.  How then, can they be capable of making valid voting decisions about things like stem cell research, nuclear power, nanotechnology, or climate change?  Similar error-propagation problems arise from placing things like "homeopathy" and "Secret"-style mind-over matter in a Reality-Free Zone.

3) The Usual Nasties: Most religions are (or claim to be) ancient, and their "holy books," "traditions," ecclesiastical hierarchies, etc. tend to reflect and perpetuate ancient biases, bigotries, taboos, and hegemonic privilege systems (e.g. patriarchy) that are neither ethically valid nor applicable in reality.  Most of us know it would be incredibly foolish to continue to live by ancient medical knowledge, sanitation practices, or governance systems (e.g. absolutist monarchy).  It is equally foolish to halo-wrap the moral systems, taboos, and biases of ancient barbarian warriors as "sacred teachings" and apply them to our lives today, even in watered-down, partial form.

Liberal believers:

In the other thread, Traveler raised the issue of liberal believers who support rational attitudes toward political issues, sex, homosexual rights, etc..  One of my favorite examples of the type is liberal Evangelical Fred Clark of Slacktivist, along with many of his regular commentators.  Fred staunchly opposes the malign tendencies of Evangelical fundamentalism, and is rightly famed for his magnificent ongoing page-by-page deconstruction of the Left Behind series.  His commentariat is a mixture of liberal Christians of various sorts, Pagans, atheists, etc., and they generally get along quite well.  The believers openly oppose anti-atheist bigotry, reject the notion that non-Christians go to Hell (and generally, the notion of Hell altogether), and support the separation of church and state.  The atheists don't clobber the believers with how delusional they are, and the Pagans coexist peacefully with both.  LGBTQ people are also welcomed and accepted there.  I think America would be a much nicer place if it was a macrocosm of Fred Clark's blog community.

The main difficulty I have with liberal Christians relates to the "Reality-Free Zone"/"Failure of quarantine" issues discussed above.  Even the very liberal Christians all the way over in Spong-land have to maintain some degree of reverence for the Bible.  Bishop Spong has written a book called Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism.  I haven't read that book[1] but judging from the title, I think he has it exactly backwards.  His sort of non-theistic "Christianity" (as well as any other Christian variant aiming to promote an accepting, secular, humanistic approach) needs to be rescued from the Bible, rather than try to rescue it.  The Bible does promote "fundamentalist" attitudes, persecution of other belief systems, subjugation of women, slavery, genocide, and the notion of a brutal, wrathful god.  While there are passages that liberals can legitimately appeal to in support of their positions, the most extreme fundamentalists have at least as much Biblical support. 

Liberal Christians do provide cover for fundamentalists even if they don't intend to, i.e., "See?  Christianity isn't all bad!  Shouldn't we embrace people like Fred Clark instead of ridiculing their beliefs?"  Liberal Christianity perpetuates the notion that the Bible is "the Good Book," that churches and Sunday Schools are a good place to go for morals, and so on.  It's like a dormant or benign form of a virus that still contains the DNA for the more harmful/virulent strain.  Children of liberal Christians who grow up accepting the haloed veneer of goodness around Jesus and the Bible may, upon further reading, decide to take it seriously and uphold the fundamentalist/conservative passages.  At the very least, Christian "civil religion" (swearing on Bibles in court, Presidents needing to end every speech with "God bless America," etc.) receives cover because liberals help perpetuate the idea that Christianity is a benevolent faith.

Which wouldn't be so bad if it really was.  The problem is, liberal Christians get their liberalism from the advances of secular, Enlightenment culture and retcon them onto the Bible, not the other way around.  When Christians had unquestioned dominance in society, they fiercely opposed the advance of freedom, scientific inquiry, the rights of women, etc..  It was only after the churches suffered decisive defeat that Christians started trying to adapt themselves to the Enlightenment by moving in the direction of open-minded liberalism.  As long as they have the Bible and all of its atavistic barbarian attitudes hung around their necks (and the burden of SPAG and anti-cognitive defense of Reality-Free Zones that comes with it), they will always be struggling to tread water. 

I think liberal Christians would be better off if they could shake off the Bible altogether.  From a Protestant perspective, there is no reason that rejection of the ecclesiastical authority of the Roman Catholic Church cannot extend to rejection of its authority to "canonize" certain ancient texts as "the Word of God."  IOW, a liberal Christian church would be just as much at liberty to de-"canonize" the Bible as it is to reject the authority of the Catholic Church on things like contraception and abortion or "ex cathedra" pronouncements of Popes.  They could "canonize" more enlightened ancient texts like the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, or better yet, no texts at all, and derive their "Christianity" from philosophical theology and/or mystical experience/gnosis of "Christ."  They'd still have a Reality-Free Zone and the problems that entails, but at least it would be smaller, and they wouldn't have to ignore/defend/allegorize/make excuses for things like the Book of Joshua or Noah's Flood.  If they did this, they could be allies in an effort to marginalize the Bible and its teachings.

My opinion on how atheists should act toward liberal Christians: save them for last.  Use our argumentative firepower and ridicule to marginalize the Bible and belief in it.  Drive a wedge between liberal Christians and the Bible.  They've already abandoned the idea that it's inerrant or historically accurate, and they don't really use it as the source code for their beliefs.[2]  They just need to go one more step to free themselves from it entirely, and increase their rationality quotient from there.

One more problem liberal Christians cause: the Sophisticated Theology Double-Bind.  If we focus our attacks on fundamentalism, they chide us for failing to address the "sophisticated" theology their beliefs are ostensibly based on.  If we attack that, we're accused of alienating potential allies or lumping all religious people together.  It's a setup designed to spare Christianity from criticism, rather than get at the most accurate possible understanding of reality.

Raising the Rationality Waterline:

Religion is only a symptom of a larger problem: Humanity's rationality waterline is ridiculously low.  It is only one manifestation of a generally acceptable level of irrationality that permits things like anti-science attitudes, denial of climate change and peak oil, belief in homeopathy and other alternative "medicine" that doesn't work, etc..  A person may be persuaded to reject Christianity, UFO's, psi, and other "woo" but still lack the ability to identify and counter the effects of cognitive biases, manipulative advertizing, propaganda, etc., rationally analyze political, economic, and environmental policies, and consistently make life decisions that advance their goals and happiness.  While religion is a direct problem, and some efforts should be directed against it, eliminating religion would only represent the most basic of steps toward a rational society.  On the other hand, if we could find ways to teach the Methods of Rationality more broadly, while refining and improving them in a manner comparable to the way martial arts disciplines refine and improve methods of physical combat, so that there is a greater general expectation of rational, critical thought and action in society, a raised Rationality Waterline would submerge and drown most religion, woo, and cognitive failure.
 1. I have read some of his other works, so I have a general idea of his theological perspective.
 2. It's more like a piece of malware running in the background, using up computing cycles and subtly hampering their thought processes.
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Offline joebbowers

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Re: Should we try to eliminate religion?
« Reply #1 on: November 27, 2011, 07:43:18 AM »
Awesome post, obviously I agree. My only comment would be regarding your last paragraph.

Quote
Humanity's rationality waterline is ridiculously low.  It is only one manifestation of a generally acceptable level of irrationality that permits things like anti-science attitudes, denial of climate change and peak oil, belief in homeopathy and other alternative "medicine" that doesn't work, etc.. 

I would theorize that people are capable of believing in ridiculous nonsense because religious nonsense is given a free pass. If religion with all of it's rational flaws is tolerated as an acceptable belief system, that opens the door to any other ridiculous belief system to come in and demand the same respect.
"Do you see a problem with insisting that the normal ways in which you determine fact from fiction is something you have to turn off in order to maintain the belief in God?" - JeffPT

Offline monkeymind

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Re: Should we try to eliminate religion?
« Reply #2 on: November 27, 2011, 08:11:25 AM »
I have to agree with you about Spong's book. I have read it it and he is a regular at a Unity church I used to attend, so I believe you are spot on.

While I considered the church a sort of half-way house from fundamentalism to Atheism, I am the only one that I know (who attended that church for 7 years) that finally  made the break.

Some have left to attend other churches, like Baptist and Methodist, but I am the only Atheist that I know of.

Although the teaching there is that Jesus is not God, Everyone there believes in homeopathy and other psuedo-science. The bible has basically been replaced with The Secret and A Course in Miracles.

Truthfinder:the birds adapt and change through million of years in order to survive ,is that science, then cats should evolve also wings to better catch the birds
Mailbag:On a side note, back in college before my conversion, I actually saw a demon sitting next to me in critical thinking class.

Offline One Above All

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Re: Should we try to eliminate religion?
« Reply #3 on: November 27, 2011, 08:31:06 AM »
I have only replied to the parts that I have something to say. Everything else I agree with 100%.

The problem we face here is that our language is fuzzy when it comes to these issues.  See also, "Religious people are delusional."  The distinction to be made here is between the clinical sort of "insanity" that refers to cognitive impairment caused by physical malfunctions in the brain that the victim can't fix by applying techniques of critical thinking (e.g., schizophrenia, clinical depression, eating disorders), and voluntarily-adopted cognitive impairment derived from sloppy thinking (e.g., religion, conspiracy theories, superstitions, over-active agency detection, cryptozoology, homeopathy, general anti-science biases, etc.).  The former is the sort of "insanity" that requires psychological and medical treatment, and should be addressed with compassion, rather than mockery.  The latter is the sort for which mockery may be appropriate, but medical approaches (drugs, forced commitment to an asylum, etc.) are not appropriate, at least not if we want to live in a free society.

For the latter, mockery might (from my past experience, it almost always does) just create more anger and aggression, rather than sudden realization of the truth.

2) Failure of quarantine: Most people with Reality-Free Zones in their heads are more or less able to function normally, most of the time.  They may claim a belief that the personal Creator of the Cosmos listens to their entreaties and alters the generalized principles of physics on their behalf (sometimes), but when it comes to modeling the anticipated behavior of reality and acting accordingly, they live in the same godless Universe we do.  If they need money, they seek employment rather than trying to catch a fish, expecting a gold coin to fall out of its mouth.  If their child is sick, they take them to a hospital, rather than to the elders of the church (James 5:14-15).  The problem here is that maintaining the quarantine is incredibly difficult, especially since the believer cannot openly acknowledge that they're doing it.  To do so would be to admit that their cherished beliefs are incompatible with reality, and they know it.

Not all theists do this; some really do let their kid die or ignore reality altogether. They are entirely convinced that they're right.
However, those that don't do know that their beliefs are incompatible with reality. It's either that or they're just "playing it safe". Pascal's Wager has always been the best[1] argument for theism.

Liberal Christians do provide cover for fundamentalists even if they don't intend to
<snip>
If they did this, they could be allies in an effort to marginalize the Bible and its teachings.

I had never thought of it that way, but I guess you're right.

My opinion on how atheists should act toward liberal Christians: save them for last.  Use our argumentative firepower and ridicule to marginalize the Bible and belief in it.  Drive a wedge between liberal Christians and the Bible.  They've already abandoned the idea that it's inerrant or historically accurate, and they don't really use it as the source code for their beliefs.[2]  They just need to go one more step to free themselves from it entirely, and increase their rationality quotient from there.
 2. It's more like a piece of malware running in the background, using up computing cycles and subtly hampering their thought processes.

I see no reason why we should even try to deconvert them[3], considering that they're not harmful.

One more problem liberal Christians cause: the Sophisticated Theology Double-Bind.  If we focus our attacks on fundamentalism, they chide us for failing to address the "sophisticated" theology their beliefs are ostensibly based on.  If we attack that, we're accused of alienating potential allies or lumping all religious people together.  It's a setup designed to spare Christianity from criticism, rather than get at the most accurate possible understanding of reality.

Like calling atheism a religion, we'll just have to show them that they're wrong. Also, note that individuals of a group will always disagree with said group on some level; some more than others.
This is irrelevant, though. We need to focus any tactics on the problem (fundies) rather than those that we already agree with on relevant issues (freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of thought, abortion rights, stem cell research, et cetera).


Religion is only a symptom of a larger problem: Humanity's rationality waterline is ridiculously low.  It is only one manifestation of a generally acceptable level of irrationality that permits things like anti-science attitudes, denial of climate change and peak oil, belief in homeopathy and other alternative "medicine" that doesn't work, etc..  A person may be persuaded to reject Christianity, UFO's, psi, and other "woo" but still lack the ability to identify and counter the effects of cognitive biases, manipulative advertizing, propaganda, etc., rationally analyze political, economic, and environmental policies, and consistently make life decisions that advance their goals and happiness.  While religion is a direct problem, and some efforts should be directed against it, eliminating religion would only represent the most basic of steps toward a rational society.  On the other hand, if we could find ways to teach the Methods of Rationality more broadly, while refining and improving them in a manner comparable to the way martial arts disciplines refine and improve methods of physical combat, so that there is a greater general expectation of rational, critical thought and action in society, a raised Rationality Waterline would submerge and drown most religion, woo, and cognitive failure.

Speaking from personal experience, philosophy classes teach all of this, but kids are deemed too "stupid" to be able to learn anything other than the most basic concepts. We should try to get rid of this lie[4] and teach kids to think critically about everything[5] from an early age.
 1. Compared to the rest anyway.
 3. Assuming that we had succeeded in deconverting every last fundie or effectively made sure that they can no longer slow down progress in a way that doesn't harm them.
 4. Yes, lie. Kids are not as stupid as most people think.
 5. Note: "Think critically" doesn't mean "Teach them the faults of religion". The former causes them to think about the latter, while the latter just makes it look like we're trying to turn atheism into a religion by indoctrinating young kids. If the former does not succeed in making them think about the latter, then at least it will prevent any significant fundamentalism from arising.
« Last Edit: November 27, 2011, 09:00:30 AM by Lucifer »
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Offline relativetruth

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Re: Should we try to eliminate religion?
« Reply #4 on: November 27, 2011, 10:50:20 AM »
Quote from: Kcrady
Raising the Rationality Waterline:

Religion is only a symptom of a larger problem: Humanity's rationality waterline is ridiculously low.  It is only one manifestation of a generally acceptable level of irrationality that permits things like anti-science attitudes, denial of climate change and peak oil, belief in homeopathy and other alternative "medicine" that doesn't work, etc..  A person may be persuaded to reject Christianity, UFO's, psi, and other "woo" but still lack the ability to identify and counter the effects of cognitive biases, manipulative advertizing, propaganda, etc., rationally analyze political, economic, and environmental policies, and consistently make life decisions that advance their goals and happiness.  While religion is a direct problem, and some efforts should be directed against it, eliminating religion would only represent the most basic of steps toward a rational society.  On the other hand, if we could find ways to teach the Methods of Rationality more broadly, while refining and improving them in a manner comparable to the way martial arts disciplines refine and improve methods of physical combat, so that there is a greater general expectation of rational, critical thought and action in society, a raised Rationality Waterline would submerge and drown most religion, woo, and cognitive failure.

Raising the rationality waterline is the key factor if we are to eliminate religion.

Religion has a disproportionate influence on most of the world's politics (even in so-called democracies) and while that continues it is very difficult to get voters to rationally decide which issue is most important to them or their society.

The majority of voters in many countries may be regarded as 'low info' voters by many of this site.  These 'low info' voters   elect people who produce policies which do harm to these same voters and they don't even realise it.

It is all very well to mock stupid people but trying get them to think logically is a very different thing.

You first need governments to put education ( in everything ...) of primary importance. But governments should not DICTATE what subjects (or how ) they should be taught.
It is the indoctrination which causes the problem.

« Last Edit: November 27, 2011, 10:52:35 AM by relativetruth »
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Offline kcrady

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Re: Should we try to eliminate religion?
« Reply #5 on: November 27, 2011, 11:36:03 AM »
For the latter, mockery might (from my past experience, it almost always does) just create more anger and aggression, rather than sudden realization of the truth.

The purpose of the mockery is not to change the fundamentalists' minds.  Nothing can do that, which is the main reason they deserve to be laughed at in the first place.  The purpose of the mockery is to set a baseline, basically a cognitive equivalent of a "You Must Be This Tall To Ride" sign.  Or to put it another way:

"You believe the Cosmos is 10,000 years old?  People running around with dinosaurs like Alley Oop?  Really?  Really?!  HAHAHAHAHAHAHAA! AhahHAhaHAHAhahaha...hahaha...haha... OK...OK...*gasp for breath* Really?  And talking animals too?  *suppressed chuckle* OK, well, then, sorry, no.  You do not deserve to be treated like a sensible adult.  Come back when you've learned how to think and know as much about reality as a passably-educated 5th Grader should."

Ridiculous religion-based ideas deserve to be treated exactly the way we'd treat comparably-ridiculous non-religious/non-Christian ideas.  Imagine if a Presidential candidate asserted that the USDA should regulate agricultural and gardening processes to make sure that regular offerings were provided for field and garden faeries.  Or that every international airport in the U.S. should be provided with a flying saucer landing site complete with 100-foot tall lit letters saying "WELCOME SPACE BROTHERS!"  Or that every U.S. consulate should keep at least one attractive virgin sex worker on retainer in case Zeus or Apollo should stop by and want a dalliance.  We wouldn't want to provoke the wrath of Almighty Zeus with our lack of hospitality, would we?

Not one of these is any more ridiculous than the idea that Yahweh implants a Soul into every fertilized ovum, which thereby becomes a human being entitled to the full force of society's interest and compassion, right up until the moment it is born.[1]  Or that we should derive our system of legal rights for married people from a passage in the Book of Leviticus.  Or that science teaching in our schools should be influenced in the slightest by an ancient tale that even early Christians like Augustine knew better than to represent as fact.

If fundies don't want to be laughed at for their beliefs, they shouldn't have such silly beliefs.  Will they get more angry and aggressive?  Yes.  Just like the KKK did when the Civil Rights movement started getting traction.  Giving in to them is not the correct response.

Not all theists do this; some really do let their kid die or ignore reality altogether.
 

True, which is why I said "Most."

They are entirely convinced that they're right.

And they should be legally prevented from letting their children die.  Failing that, any other children they have should be taken away from them.  This sort of thing is what Child Protective Services is for.

However, those that don't do know that their beliefs are incompatible with reality. It's either that or they're just "playing it safe". Pascal's Wager has always been the best[2] argument for theism.
 2. Compared to the rest anyway.

Due to the typo, I'm not sure if you mean "don't know" or "do know" that their beliefs are incompatible with reality.  WRT Pascal's Wager, I think it's one of the worst theist arguments, right down there with Anselm's Ontological argument.  The Cosmological (Kalam and otherwise) Argument, Fine Tuning, and Plantinga's argument from sense perception are all lousy arguments, but they're quite a bit better IMO than the giant mess of internal and external contradictions that is Pascal's Wager.

I see no reason why we should even try to deconvert them[3], considering that they're not harmful.
 3. Assuming that we had succeeded in deconverting every last fundie or effectively made sure that they can no longer slow down progress in a way that doesn't harm them.

I think they are harmful, to the extent that they try to keep Christianity in a Criticism and Reality-Free Zone.  They're just quite a bit less harmful than the fundies.  It's like triage.  First you take care of the patient with arterial bleeding, then you go to the one with the cut that needs a few stitches.

Like calling atheism a religion, we'll just have to show them that they're wrong. Also, note that individuals of a group will always disagree with said group on some level; some more than others.
This is irrelevant, though. We need to focus any tactics on the problem (fundies) rather than those that we already agree with on relevant issues (freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of thought, abortion rights, stem cell research, et cetera).

I think it really depends on whether they try to shield Christianity from criticism or not.  If they wag their fingers and say we're meanies for pointing out the many ridiculous elements of Christian belief, then we find out which ridiculous elements they like and include those on the target list.

Speaking from personal experience, philosophy classes teach all of this,

A good philosophy course, maybe, but in my experience philosophy tends to be infected with a whole bunch of Postmodernist and Existentialist bafflegab.  But, teaching the methodology of logic, logical fallacies, etc., plus the scientific method, and some basic information about how the brain works (and doesn't, e.g. cognitive biases, over-active agency detection) would be a really good start.

but kids are deemed too "stupid" to be able to learn anything other than the most basic concepts. We should try to get rid of this lie[4]
 4. Yes, lie. Kids are not as stupid as most people think.

Agreed.

and teach kids to think critically about everything[5] from an early age.
 5. Note: "Think critically" doesn't mean "Teach them the faults of religion". The former causes them to think about the latter, while the latter just makes it look like we're trying to turn atheism into a religion by indoctrinating young kids.  If the former does not succeed in making them think about the latter, then at least it will prevent any significant fundamentalism from arising.

Agreed.  Children should be taught how to think, not what to think. 
 1. After that, you're on your own, bucko.  Hope you were born with a nice set of bootstraps.
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Re: Should we try to eliminate religion?
« Reply #6 on: November 27, 2011, 11:44:12 AM »
One of the challenges, is the fact that we live in the middle of it all - not location wise, but time wise.  Atheists, for example, tend to be able to separate religious woo from rational, evidence-based information.  But even Christians seem to be able to dismiss religious woo that has no grip whatsoever on them personally, such as worrying about Zeus.  They know it's bullshit.  But they cannot see the distinction, because they are standing in the middle of it, and are engulfed by it from every angle. 

What chance does a young child have if they challenge the existence of Santa clause in a pre-kinder setting?  If they were able to articulate that Santa sounds like a myth, the other kids, and probably all of the adults involved, would tromp on that critical thinker, in an effort to either hold on to the delusion, or to stomp out any challenges towards it.

We are smack in the middle of some very hard core Christian proselytizing and church-state mixing in the U.S.  This is coming from people running for President of the most powerful nation the world has ever known.  And no one can see how stupid it is, precisely because we're smack in the middle of it!  wE have to find ways to mock it, and do it without apology.  And it is going to damage relationships before it starts working.

Offline One Above All

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Re: Should we try to eliminate religion?
« Reply #7 on: November 27, 2011, 12:14:00 PM »
The purpose of the mockery is not to change the fundamentalists' minds.  Nothing can do that, which is the main reason they deserve to be laughed at in the first place.  The purpose of the mockery is to set a baseline, basically a cognitive equivalent of a "You Must Be This Tall To Ride" sign.
<snip>

However, we should find a different method by which we can achieve this. As I said, mockery can do more harm than good.

<snip>
If fundies don't want to be laughed at for their beliefs, they shouldn't have such silly beliefs.  Will they get more angry and aggressive?  Yes.  Just like the KKK did when the Civil Rights movement started getting traction.  Giving in to them is not the correct response.

Nobody chooses to believe in something. They have such beliefs because they were indoctrinated and/or had a big emotional moment (as we all do from time to time) after which they created an imaginary friend who would make life awesome for them.
Also, I didn't say we should give in. Simply find another method that won't get more people hurt.

True, which is why I said "Most."

My apologies.

And they should be legally prevented from letting their children die.  Failing that, any other children they have should be taken away from them.  This sort of thing is what Child Protective Services is for.

Of course they should. I don't think any rational human being disagrees with this.

Due to the typo, I'm not sure if you mean "don't know" or "do know" that their beliefs are incompatible with reality.  WRT Pascal's Wager, I think it's one of the worst theist arguments, right down there with Anselm's Ontological argument.  The Cosmological (Kalam and otherwise) Argument, Fine Tuning, and Plantinga's argument from sense perception are all lousy arguments, but they're quite a bit better IMO than the giant mess of internal and external contradictions that is Pascal's Wager.

No typo. I meant that those who are aware that their beliefs are not supported by reality don't let their kids die. Sorry for being confusing. I should've separated that part of your post.

I think they are harmful, to the extent that they try to keep Christianity in a Criticism and Reality-Free Zone.  They're just quite a bit less harmful than the fundies.  It's like triage.  First you take care of the patient with arterial bleeding, then you go to the one with the cut that needs a few stitches.

"Try" being the operative word. They have failed, except on the "reality-free zone" thing. We just need to remind them of that without ridicule.

I think it really depends on whether they try to shield Christianity from criticism or not.  If they wag their fingers and say we're meanies for pointing out the many ridiculous elements of Christian belief, then we find out which ridiculous elements they like and include those on the target list.

Unfortunately, I haven't met any christians (IRL) who didn't try to protect their beliefs from criticism. If all theists could be like OCG, we'd be a lot better off. ;)

A good philosophy course, maybe, but in my experience philosophy tends to be infected with a whole bunch of Postmodernist and Existentialist bafflegab.  But, teaching the methodology of logic, logical fallacies, etc., plus the scientific method, and some basic information about how the brain works (and doesn't, e.g. cognitive biases, over-active agency detection) would be a really good start.

That (everything after the "But") was what I was taught. There was a slight bias towards theism (it had arguments for theism and against atheism but not the opposite), but (most of) my colleagues weren't idiots; we knew how to counter those arguments.

Agreed.  Children should be taught how to think, not what to think. 

I'm glad we agree. :)
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Offline Gnu Ordure

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Re: Should we try to eliminate religion?
« Reply #8 on: November 27, 2011, 12:37:26 PM »
Kcrady, good post.

Two observations about mockery:

1. It can vary from aggressive/hostile to gentle/kind.
2. It can be personal/face-to-face or impersonal/indirect.

So on the one hand, I might gently mock a good friend for their beliefs, but not a person I'd just met (such as a new theist visitor to this forum). That would be just rude - and probably counter-productive.

On the other hand I fully support comedians like Bill Hicks publicly mocking religion in the most savage fashion, or Monty Python/Eddie Izzard doing so more gently.

So I would never actually say something like this:
Quote
"You believe the Cosmos is 10,000 years old?  People running around with dinosaurs like Alley Oop?  Really?  Really?!  HAHAHAHAHAHAHAA! AhahHAhaHAHAhahaha...hahaha...haha... OK...OK...*gasp for breath* Really?  And talking animals too?  *suppressed chuckle* OK, well, then, sorry, no.  You do not deserve to be treated like a sensible adult.  Come back when you've learned how to think and know as much about reality as a passably-educated 5th Grader should."
I'm sure Richard Dawkins must feel like that sometimes when he's debating theists, but he represses the thoughts for the obvious reason that expressing them would end the debate. It would be counter-productive (if the aim is dialogue).

Offline Gnu Ordure

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Re: Should we try to eliminate religion?
« Reply #9 on: November 27, 2011, 01:19:48 PM »
Kcrady:
Quote
The distinction to be made here is between the clinical sort of "insanity" that refers to cognitive impairment caused by physical malfunctions in the brain that the victim can't fix by applying techniques of critical thinking (e.g., schizophrenia, clinical depression, eating disorders), and voluntarily-adopted cognitive impairment derived from sloppy thinking (e.g., religion, conspiracy theories, superstitions, over-active agency detection, cryptozoology, homeopathy, general anti-science biases, etc.).
I don't agree with this distinction, Kcrady.

First, some common mental illnesses such as depression may be caused by 'sloppy thinking' i.e. impaired cognitive processes, and can be treated by cognitive therapies such as CBT.

Two, some of the examples you give of 'voluntarily adopted' cognitive processes are also symptoms of possible mental disorders e.g.

A conspiracy theorist may be suffering from paranoia.
"Having odd beliefs or engaging in magical thinking" is a symptom of Schizotypal Personality Disorder.
Belief in Christianity may indicate grandiosity - the belief that "it's all about ME".

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Re: Should we try to eliminate religion?
« Reply #10 on: November 27, 2011, 01:23:51 PM »
We are smack in the middle of some very hard core Christian proselytizing and church-state mixing in the U.S.  This is coming from people running for President of the most powerful nation the world has ever known.  And no one can see how stupid it is, precisely because we're smack in the middle of it!  wE have to find ways to mock it, and do it without apology.  And it is going to damage relationships before it starts working.

There is one very powerful very simple way to put a grinding halt to this trend and shine a light for the whole world to see.

Vote for me.[1]

I am not joking. I hold no delusion that I would actually win any of the states or receive even one single electoral collage vote. But can you image the national media attention it would cause if I received a couple hundred thousand write in votes? Can you imagine what kind of message that would send to the power elites?

What would my message be you might ask?

1. Reaffirm the separation of church and state...at all levels.

2. Call for a separation of corporation and state.

3. If it's good enough for the American people it's good enough for members of congress. For example...no more lifetime pensions or benefits for a member of congress who only served one or two terms. It's a calling to serve the public not a lifetime career or vehicle to establish a family dynasty.

4.  Absolutely no more corporate funded lobbyists. If an organization wants to lobby congress on behalf of a disenfranchised minority or against corporate/government negligence then fine. If an organization wants to lobby on behalf of a business to help them make more money, then get bent. Even so, no money should ever change hands.

And many many more issues that need to be addressed as well.

In keeping with the OP
I am working on a response to the issue of the mock and ridicule angle. I was going to start a separate thread but when I am finished I will post it here. My position is that mocking is very harmful and I intend to support my argument with evidence. Stay tuned.
 1. Consider it a protest vote
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Re: Should we try to eliminate religion?
« Reply #11 on: November 27, 2011, 01:58:34 PM »
OH and no, I don't think we should be trying to eliminate religion. It would be much easier and more practical to defang it. Trying to eliminate it would cause, IMO, too much bloodshed.
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Re: Should we try to eliminate religion?
« Reply #12 on: November 27, 2011, 02:29:29 PM »
OH and no, I don't think we should be trying to eliminate religion. It would be much easier and more practical to defang it. Trying to eliminate it would cause, IMO, too much bloodshed.

I took from the OP the idea of eliminating religion from the stand point of not tolerating it as a society, as opposed to outlawing it or removing it by force.  To make religion against the law would be antithetical to the values of a free society.  However, to make religion appear as obviously irrational to everyone as it is to a minority, would be to point religion in the same direction of the ancient Greek gods - that is to say, legal to practice, but embarrassingly silly because it was obviously fabricated by bronze aged human culture. 

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Re: Should we try to eliminate religion?
« Reply #13 on: November 27, 2011, 02:34:04 PM »
Nice post, KCrady.   Coming from a liberal Christian family (now atheist, myself), I ‘ve wanted to discuss how to teach children, and now seems as good a time as any.  In our liberal Church of the Brethren admitted SPAG, we choose the 4 gospels (Christ) as our creed.
 
 I can appreciate the core teachings of Jesus, as with many great religious teachers and philosophers throughout history, as having important things to teach kids.  While science and math are the important things, do you think that the humility, self-sacrifice, and “turning of the other cheek” that we can get from Jesus are an important thing to expose kids too, or do you think these ideas confuse kids, weaken humanity (a business, survival of the fittest view)?  My family (mom, sisters) would argue that the parts of the bible that teach kids to “stand in other’s shoes” are one of many necessary readings for kids as they grow up.
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Re: Should we try to eliminate religion?
« Reply #14 on: November 27, 2011, 02:46:06 PM »
I suppose I should have been more clear on the mockery issue.  I don't think that every atheist has to be all mockery all the time.  No, we don't have to steal coloring books from children or publicly ridicule grannies in wheelchairs for saying "Bless you" when we sneeze.  If someone wants to try gentle hand-holding with fundies and say, "There, there, you can still believe in Jesus and accept evolution--see, Kenneth Miller does it, Francis Collins does it, even the Pope does it, OK?" with a nice, big Chris Mooney smile, go for it.  Let a thousand flowers bloom. 

However, I think mockery definitely has a place in rationalist strategy and tactics, and that Christian ridiculousness should not be privileged with a pass, by anyone who laughs at belief in ghosts or New Age channelers or Scientology.  If you're the type who would tiptoe carefully around faith in Lord Xenu or the efficacy of Wiccan spells or belief in the Chupacabra, then by all means, do the same for Christianity.  But, I think it is hypocritical to sneer derisively at those beliefs and the people who hold them while advocating that we make all efforts never to offend Christians just because they have numbers and power.

Here's something I don't get.  When asked "If God exists, would you accept Jesus as your savior?" people here all line up to say that they would stand face to face with Almighty Yahweh himself in all his limitless malevolent power and say, "NO!  Send me to Hell for eternity if you want, but I will never worship you!"  Like this:

So everyone else would accept eternal damnation rather than submit to the most powerful thing in the universe?  And in fact the creator itself?  You would go against the universe itself?  Just to be stubborn?

I'm sorry, but this is just pathetic. You are pathetic. If you would rather submit yourself to the most evil being in all of existence rather than fight against it, you are nothing but a selfish coward, plain and simple. You are no better than the self-described "liberal" theists who don't do anything to stop the fundies from discriminating against and/or killing whomever they damn well please.

This is not about being stubborn. I admit that sometimes I can be stubborn, but this is about fighting against evil. I would gladly go to hell for the rest of eternity if it meant that even a single life form in the universe would be free from the tyranny of such a being.

But, contemplate the idea of similar defiance in the face of ordinary, mortal Christians, and some of the same people say, "Noooo, we can't do that, they might get mad at us!"

What am I missing here?
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Re: Should we try to eliminate religion?
« Reply #15 on: November 27, 2011, 03:02:27 PM »
What am I missing here?

It's easy for an atheist to speak boldly on a forum against a god they know doesn't exist. Not so easy to do it in real life when face to face with a person who may or may not appreciate your point of view.
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Re: Should we try to eliminate religion?
« Reply #16 on: November 27, 2011, 03:08:52 PM »
I took from the OP the idea of eliminating religion from the stand point of not tolerating it as a society, as opposed to outlawing it or removing it by force.  To make religion against the law would be antithetical to the values of a free society.  However, to make religion appear as obviously irrational to everyone as it is to a minority, would be to point religion in the same direction of the ancient Greek gods - that is to say, legal to practice, but embarrassingly silly because it was obviously fabricated by bronze aged human culture.

Well when you put it that way it makes perfect sense with no ambiguity. Knowing kcrady, that is exactly what he meant. I still see a huge problem with using words like "eliminate" and "cleanse" and "insanity" when trying to come up with a solution for the problem of religion that SHOULD be beneficial to everyone involved.
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Re: Should we try to eliminate religion?
« Reply #17 on: November 27, 2011, 03:10:21 PM »
However, I think mockery definitely has a place in rationalist strategy and tactics, and that Christian ridiculousness should not be privileged with a pass, by anyone who laughs at belief in ghosts or New Age channelers or Scientology.  If you're the type who would tiptoe carefully around faith in Lord Xenu or the efficacy of Wiccan spells or belief in the Chupacabra, then by all means, do the same for Christianity.  But, I think it is hypocritical to sneer derisively at those beliefs and the people who hold them while advocating that we make all efforts never to offend Christians just because they have numbers and power.

Mockery as a strategy is basically an ad hominem. Yes, their beliefs are ridiculous. Does that mean that they're wrong? No. The fact that reality isn't the way it should be if their beliefs were real does.

Here's something I don't get.  When asked "If God exists, would you accept Jesus as your savior?" people here all line up to say that they would stand face to face with Almighty Yahweh himself in all his limitless malevolent power and say, "NO!  Send me to Hell for eternity if you want, but I will never worship you!"  Like this:

<snip>

But, contemplate the idea of similar defiance in the face of ordinary, mortal Christians, and some of the same people say, "Noooo, we can't do that, they might get mad at us!"

What am I missing here?

Getting mad is not a big deal. I've pissed off a lot of people, even people who were (more) important to me (than the general public). However, a lot of people have difficulty controlling their emotions. They go from "angry" to "hitting you with a brick until you die" rather quickly.
If I were to advocate such a method fully aware of what would happen, other people (innocent people) would get hurt or killed for no reason other than being atheists, and it would all be on me. I would have effectively been responsible for hurting and/or killing dozens of people.
I would die without hesitation if it assured that it would get our point across (permanently) and that nobody else would be hurt, but I cannot advocate something that would cause suffering to people who had nothing to do with it (and might not even agree with it) in the first place.
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Re: Should we try to eliminate religion?
« Reply #18 on: November 27, 2011, 03:18:09 PM »
It's easy for an atheist to speak boldly on a forum against a god they know doesn't exist. Not so easy to do it in real life when face to face with a person who may or may not appreciate your point of view.

That's not it at all.

Short story:
After I met my (now ex) boyfriend, through a series of random events, we ended up talking a very long time about stuff like that. I knew he would break up with me if we had a serious enough fight, but I did it anyway. Long story short, we talked and talked until we realized that neither of us would be convinced of the other's PoV and decided to stop talking about it to avoid fighting and hurting each other unintentionally. This was to prevent ourselves from causing harm to people we cared about. Personally, I don't care if I get hurt by anyone, but I also don't want to hurt anyone, regardless of who they are and/or what they have done.


TL;DR version: I am not afraid to get hurt. I am afraid to get other people hurt.
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Offline Gnu Ordure

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Re: Should we try to eliminate religion?
« Reply #19 on: November 27, 2011, 03:20:52 PM »
shnozzola,
Quote
While science and math are the important things, do you think that the humility, self-sacrifice, and “turning of the other cheek” that we can get from Jesus are an important thing to expose kids to,
Those concepts don't originate with Jesus, and can be taught to children without reference to him.

Just as the Golden Rule is in the Bible, but existed before it.

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Re: Should we try to eliminate religion?
« Reply #20 on: November 27, 2011, 03:32:06 PM »
Nice post, KCrady.

Thank you.

Coming from a liberal Christian family (now atheist, myself), I‘ve wanted to discuss how to teach children, and now seems as good a time as any.  In our liberal Church of the Brethren admitted SPAG, we choose the 4 gospels (Christ) as our creed.
 
I can appreciate the core teachings of Jesus,

What are the "core" teachings of Jesus?  His apocalyptic predictions of an immanent end to the world?  His teachings about Yahweh's judgment and everlasting suffering for the damned in Hell?  His promotion of an ascetic, itinerant lifestyle (hate/leave family to follow him, have no thought for tomorrow, lilies of the field, sell all your possessions and give to the poor, etc.)?  His parables?  His discourses?  His debates with the Pharisees?  His ministry of faith-healing and exorcism?

Whatever set you pick, on what basis do you define them (and not others) to be the "core?" 

as with many great religious teachers and philosophers throughout history,

Comparing Jesus to, say, Lucretius or the Buddha, I don't think he qualifies as "great" at all.  If not for the historical triumph of Christianity (which had more to do with Paul and Emperor Constantine than the teachings of Jesus), I doubt very much that Jesus would be remembered as a "great teacher."  Even the early Christians themselves didn't bother to preserve more than a tiny handful of "teachings of Jesus."  They preserved quite a bit more of the teachings of Paul.

as having important things to teach kids.  While science and math are the important things, do you think that the humility,

Where is Jesus humble?  He is portrayed accepting worship, demanding absolute, unquestioning obedience from his followers, and making grandiose claims about himself.  For the price of a very bad weekend, he (supposedly) gets everlasting domination over the Universe.  What comic-book supervillain wouldn't take that deal?

self-sacrifice,

Since the main act of "self-sacrifice" attributed to Jesus is his participation in an atavistic eat-my-flesh-and-drink-my-blood vampire-cult rite of torture and human sacrifice, I'd say no, kids don't really need to learn that shit.  Well, for purposes of cultural familiarity, so they'll understand why Catholic priests wear tortured-dead-guy-on-a-stick necklaces and so forth, maybe.  But not as any sort of ideal they should look up to.

and “turning of the other cheek” that we can get from Jesus are an important thing to expose kids too,

No, I don't think "turning of the other cheek" is a good thing to teach to children.  Better to teach them rational methods of conflict-avoidance and self-defense than make them easy prey for bullies.

or do you think these ideas confuse kids, weaken humanity (a business, survival of the fittest view)?

No, I don't think we are limited to a choice between Jesus and Genghis Khan.  False dichotomy.  Why not Lucretius or Rumi or Buckminster Fuller?

My family (mom, sisters) would argue that the parts of the bible that teach kids to “stand in other’s shoes” are one of many necessary readings for kids as they grow up.

On what basis do you pick those parts, and not the Song of Solomon, or the injunctions to exterminate Pagans, or the rules for keeping women in their place as men's property?  Can't you teach your children empathy for others without the Bible?  If you must appeal to ancient teachings, the Buddha had a lot to say about compassion for all beings.  Compare the pledge of the Bodhisattvas, to refuse entry into Heaven as long as other beings anywhere suffered and had need of their compassion.  Jesus doesn't hold a candle to that.
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Re: Should we try to eliminate religion?
« Reply #21 on: November 27, 2011, 03:49:52 PM »

Mockery as a strategy is basically an ad hominem. Yes, their beliefs are ridiculous. Does that mean that they're wrong? No. The fact that reality isn't the way it should be if their beliefs were real does.


Ridiculous beliefs deserve some level of mockery, plain and simple.  And again, no one is proposing that all atheists use only mockery, all the time.  The idea is that people actually respond to mockery.  And it turns out that those who are at the failing end of the spectrum, theists, will be less inclined to shout their delusions from the rooftops, if more people come out and call it what it is, silly, imaginary mythology. 

The implication of ridiculous beliefs are that those beliefs are wrong.  If they are not wrong, then there is no reason to mock them.

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Re: Should we try to eliminate religion?
« Reply #22 on: November 27, 2011, 03:54:29 PM »
Ridiculous beliefs deserve some level of mockery, plain and simple.

No argument here.

And again, no one is proposing that all atheists use only mockery, all the time.  The idea is that people actually respond to mockery.  And it turns out that those who are at the failing end of the spectrum, theists, will be less inclined to shout their delusions from the rooftops, if more people come out and call it what it is, silly, imaginary mythology. 

The implication of ridiculous beliefs are that those beliefs are wrong.  If they are not wrong, then there is no reason to mock them.

Like I said, the reaction we'll get from theists might not be the one that we want.
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Offline kcrady

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Re: Should we try to eliminate religion?
« Reply #23 on: November 27, 2011, 04:04:00 PM »
Mockery as a strategy is basically an ad hominem.

No it isn't.  "Ad hominem" (trans. "to the man") is the logical fallacy of implying that an argument should be rejected because of an attack being made on the person making the argument.  "Ms. X cheats on her husband, so you should pay no attention to her arguments for feminism!"  To ridicule ideas, arguments, and beliefs is not the same thing at all.

Yes, their beliefs are ridiculous. Does that mean that they're wrong? No.

Um, what?  Their beliefs are ridiculous because they're wrong, and blatantly so.  Can you give me an example of a ridiculous belief that's true?


Getting mad is not a big deal. I've pissed off a lot of people, even people who were (more) important to me (than the general public). However, a lot of people have difficulty controlling their emotions. They go from "angry" to "hitting you with a brick until you die" rather quickly.

OK, the main thing I am advocating here is rationality.  Rationality is the Art and Science of acquiring the best possible understanding of reality and using that knowledge to take the most efficacious possible actions in life.  I have not suggested anywhere that our strategy should be to seek out the nearest brick, pitchfork, and torch-wielding angry mob and start ridiculing them until they kill us.  That would not be rational.  There may be times when it is necessary to take a courageous stand at the risk of life and limb, while making every effort to mitigate that risk (See: Ali, Ayaan Hirsi).  Nevertheless, a practicing Rationalist should not foolishly court martyrdumb.  Rationalists should win.

So, one should not choose to employ the tool of mockery when it is likely to result in violence, unless the alternative is acquiescence to subjugation by the religious, e.g. the Danish cartoon issue and "Draw Mohammad Day."

Mockery of religion is done all the time, with minimal danger to the mockers and other unbelievers.  People like P.Z. Myers, Penn and Teller and Bill Maher do it, George Carlin did it, and none of them have come close to being hit with a brick unto death.  You're either wildly over-estimating the risks, or employing a straw-man scenario.
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Offline One Above All

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Re: Should we try to eliminate religion?
« Reply #24 on: November 27, 2011, 04:18:12 PM »
No it isn't.  "Ad hominem" (trans. "to the man") is the logical fallacy of implying that an argument should be rejected because of an attack being made on the person making the argument.  "Ms. X cheats on her husband, so you should pay no attention to her arguments for feminism!"  To ridicule ideas, arguments, and beliefs is not the same thing at all.

See below. I was mistaken to say "ad hominem".

Um, what?  Their beliefs are ridiculous because they're wrong, and blatantly so.  Can you give me an example of a ridiculous belief that's true?

Yes, they're wrong and yes, they're ridiculous. I was just saying that the latter does not imply the former.
IIRC there were a few conspiracy theories that were completely ridiculous, yet they turned out to be true. Hell, a "few" years ago, the idea that atoms existed was completely ridiculous, yet it was correct.
Saying that an argument is ridiculous does not invalidate it; therefore it should not be used as a strategy.

OK, the main thing I am advocating here is rationality.  Rationality is the Art and Science of acquiring the best possible understanding of reality and using that knowledge to take the most efficacious possible actions in life.  I have not suggested anywhere that our strategy should be to seek out the nearest brick, pitchfork, and torch-wielding angry mob and start ridiculing them until they kill us.  That would not be rational.  There may be times when it is necessary to take a courageous stand at the risk of life and limb, while making every effort to mitigate that risk (See: Ali, Ayaan Hirsi).  Nevertheless, a practicing Rationalist should not foolishly court martyrdumb.  Rationalists should win.

Very well.
Small comment: The way I see it, there are two possible outcomes - rationality wins, and we all get to go home happy, or idiocy wins, in which case we either end up back in caves or dead.

So, one should not choose to employ the tool of mockery when it is likely to result in violence, unless the alternative is acquiescence to subjugation by the religious, e.g. the Danish cartoon issue and "Draw Mohammad Day."

OK.

Mockery of religion is done all the time, with minimal danger to the mockers and other unbelievers.  People like P.Z. Myers, Penn and Teller and Bill Maher do it, George Carlin did it, and none of them have come close to being hit with a brick unto death.  You're either wildly over-estimating the risks, or employing a straw-man scenario.

A few individuals mocking religion is relatively harmless. What was proposed, from what I understood, was constant mocking by pretty much every non-theist on the planet. If this is not what you meant, then I apologize.
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Online Mr. Blackwell

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Re: Should we try to eliminate religion?
« Reply #25 on: November 27, 2011, 04:21:08 PM »
That's not it at all.

I have similar stories involving my mother and my wife. For the sake of brevity I will just tell you about the one involving my wife.

We had been together for a couple of years and I finally decided to probe her spiritual/religious beliefs. I knew that she used to attend church as a child but I did not know where she currently stood or how strong her convictions were. I had a clue from the fact that she did not like to talk about religion or politics. But I wanted to be sure her schema would not be detrimental to my personal beliefs when it came to raising children together. It was important for me to know what page she was on before we got married and sealed the deal.

So, one night I asked her point blank what she believed. She said she believed in God. She never got baptized because of an overwhelming fear of being under water. "What about Jesus?", I asked.
She said that she thought he was a wise man, maybe a prophet but that he wasn't the son of God in a literal sense.

"Do you consider yourself a Christian?"

"Yes"

"Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal lord and savior?"

"Well, no I don't think Jesus is God."

"Then, technically you are not a Christian...Christians believe that Jesus was God and created the universe[1] and that the only way to heaven is through Jesus."

"So you're you think I'm going to hell?!"

"No, I don't think you are but according to Christianity you are"

She was so pissed off that she refused to reopen that conversation for over 9 years. Because I liked to talk about God/gods and religion she thought that I was a very religious person. She thought that I was judging her. The hardest part was that she was unwilling to let me explain for almost a decade. Showing her my posts on this forum actually helped dissolve that wedge between us. Her views of God and Jesus have not changed but for some inexplicable reason she started taking our kids to my old church for Sunday school while I was in Iraq.

Many people hold their views so close to their hearts that when you attack, question or mock their beliefs you are attacking them...personally. It is a very dangerous game to use mockery and ridicule to try to get your point across. You risk either hurting the ones you are trying to help or you risk bringing harm to yourself. It is especially dangerous to laugh at children and teenagers for their beliefs. You can't ignore the possibility that our words here on this forum reach impressionable young minds. You might end up with someone like Samualxcs thinking it's a great idea to mock and ridicule any ol body who he comes across because his mind does not understand the subtle nuances of psychology.

Then there is the larger effect of marginalizing the group as a whole. This creates an Us vs. Them environment. This is a horrible environment for everybody.

I have too many distractions going on at the moment. I will have to pick up on this later.
 1. At the time I was not as educated about religious dogma as I am now
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Offline One Above All

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Re: Should we try to eliminate religion?
« Reply #26 on: November 27, 2011, 04:24:09 PM »
I have similar stories involving my mother and my wife. For the sake of brevity I will just tell you about the one involving my wife.

<snip>

Many people hold their views so close to their hearts that when you attack, question or mock their beliefs you are attacking them...personally. It is a very dangerous game to use mockery and ridicule to try to get your point across. You risk either hurting the ones you are trying to help or you risk bringing harm to yourself. It is especially dangerous to laugh at children and teenagers for their beliefs. You can't ignore the possibility that our words here on this forum reach impressionable young minds. You might end up with someone like Samualxcs thinking it's a great idea to mock and ridicule any ol body who he comes across because his mind does not understand the subtle nuances of psychology.

Then there is the larger effect of marginalizing the group as a whole. This creates an Us vs. Them environment. This is a horrible environment for everybody.

Agreed.

I have too many distractions going on at the moment. I will have to pick up on this later.

Take your time.
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Offline Graybeard

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Re: Should we try to eliminate religion?
« Reply #27 on: November 27, 2011, 04:29:48 PM »
Think of some Society, Club or Organisation. Now think of the members. They will all believe something that is no more than an opinion.

Philately Society – they all believe that stamps are the most important thing and they have views on which is the most valuable, rarest, most interesting. Most will agree but there are opinion leaders within the Society who will manipulate the thoughts of other members and opinions will change over time.

The Automobile Club: they believe either in one type of car is most interesting  and some other car is next to Satan, or that they will all breakdown and need rescuing by a tow-truck.

The Spastic Society they believe that spasticity is the most worthy cause and anyone who came into the meeting and said, “I’d like this week’s collection to go to the Animal Shelter.” would be thrown out as a heretic.

To some extent or other, each group of people has a common delusion that must not be destroyed. They are distinguished by this delusion that defines and sustains them.

This group see themselves as given meaning by their beliefs and “those outside do not understand, or else they too would be members.”

So with Christians; Paul and others used several known techniques:
1.   Absolute loyalty to a cause
2.   A set of rules
3.   A hierarchy
4.   An attempt to bring in other members by publicity drives
5.   A recognition that not everyone will think their way
6.   A recognition that not everyone will join and that some will oppose.
7.   The use of inducements to gain members.
8.   Internal loyalty to each other (the freemasonry of religion is strongest in Moslems who see all Moslems as brothers, part of the Umraa; an idea stolen from both OT and NT God. Indeed Islam’s greatest success was the trust in trade with other Moslems. However Christianity is not far behind.)
9.   A common interest: no matter where you are, you will have a topic of conversation to extend introductions to others of the group.
10.   An opposition to other groups with similar aims (We support Ford Mustangs, Chevy Cameros are shit…)
11.   An encouragement to breed within the group – often subsumed into praise to those who bring in members.
12.   Some irrationality that is justified by arcane argument. This is helpful as it marks you out as “different”. You now need the protection and shelter of the group Moreover, by accepting difference you engage in defining and defending the boundary of the group. In normal life, this “irrationality” is often the subscription fee. It is an inconvenience that causes you to think about the value you get from the group and the value the group has for you.
13.   A technicality, including but not restricted to, vocabulary, deep study of obscure points, and apologists’ writing. The vocabulary is most important, for, only by learning the words and apparently understanding the concepts they embody, can you say you are a respected member.

We here are not entirely free from many of the above. But then we are human. ;)
RELIGION, n. A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the nature of the Unknowable. Ambrose Bierce

Offline kcrady

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Re: Should we try to eliminate religion?
« Reply #28 on: November 27, 2011, 04:33:25 PM »
Like I said, the reaction we'll get from theists might not be the one that we want.

Since many of us have been believers, and few if any believers have been practicing Rationalists in the sense I am talking about, we should have the advantage when it comes to modeling the thoughts and anticipating the behaviors of the other side.  If we are the smart, rational ones, we should be able to get inside their OODA loops.  We should be able to design strategies and tactics that work more often than not.  If we fail regularly, if the strategy and tactics of our opponents are superior (and we fail to learn from this and adopt strategy and tactics that are better still) then we are simply not practicing our Art at all.

Mockery is only one relatively small part of a strategy to shame the ridiculously irrational into silence and inaction, the way racists and sexists have been largely shamed into silence and inaction.

BTW, when I talk about "eliminating" religion, I mean it in the same sense we use when we talk about "eliminating" racism or sexism.  It is not possible to completely rid the world of every single racist or sexist thought, nor is it moral or desirable to set out to physically exterminate every racist and sexist.  But we can work to break their power on a societal level, so that racist and sexist thoughts and actions exist only furtively in the shadows, and must always fear the white-hot light of scrutiny and social rejection.  We should want to see the same thing happen to religion and other ridiculous, false beliefs and epistemologies.
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